Nicholson sets new record

1st June 2022

An oil painting with a connection to two notable war poets has sold at auction for £550,000.

The still life of flowers and books by Sir William Nicholson sold at Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury as part of the collection of Siegfried Sassoon, providing a record for the saleroom’s Paintings department.

Nicholson was introduced to Sassoon through their mutual friend, the poet Robert Graves, who was married to Nicholson’s daughter. Both men had been touched by tragedy during the First World War; Nicholson’s son, Anthony, died of wounds received in France in 1918 and Sassoon’s brother, Hamo, was killed in action in 1915. The painting, however, had been bought by Sassoon as a gift for his lover, Stephen Tennant – famed for being one of the ‘Bright Young Things’.

“Tennant’s taste in art tended towards the Modernistic in style and so it is possible that he rejected this more traditional work,” surmised Paintings specialist, Victor Fauvelle. “However, we know that from 1929 onwards the relationship between Sassoon and Tennant was beginning to sour and so it is just as possible that this is the reason why the artwork stayed with Sassoon.”

The painting was included in the Modern British and 20th Century Art auction as part of the broader collection of Siegfried Sassoon, which also included a number of his caricatures.

“Undoubtedly the strong provenance and the fact that the painting hasn’t appeared on the market in almost century made it hugely appealing to bidders,” continued Fauvelle. “But still life arrangements by Nicholson have recently been increasing in value and the bright colouring of this piece makes it extremely attractive.”

The premium-inclusive price of £550,000 sets a new record for the Paintings team at Woolley and Wallis, which had been previously set at £325,000 for a pair of works by Jacopo Amigoni in March 2020.


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